Sunday, February 11, 2007

Kate Greenstreet's case sensitive

Thanks to Ahsahta Press, I recently discovered the work of American poet Kate Greenstreet, through her first trade collection, case sensitive (Boise Idaho: Ahsahta Press, 2006). Working the extended and continual poem as both the serial poem and essay (reminding me somewhat of Montreal poet Erin Mouré, who also learned some time ago that the poem and essay don’t need to be separate beasts), Greenstreet picks up other lines and responds to them as well, in a collection built in five sections, including "Great Women of Science," "[SALT]," "Book of Love," "Where's the Body?" and "Diplomacy."

13 [did not originate in the pools where it was found]

I'm going to say it's clouds. Or rain.
You'd be thinking—
about the end of your life. Somewhat.
And also—
the things you’d care about

would be different than the people you knew.
These are harder, I think.
It's just a feeling that we have—the desire to go deeper.
No, in fact, I often don't, and other people do.
I like to taste it first, to see.

Not by reputation.
It depends
on who's gauging it.

There is no term.

To keep it, to tame it.
It would believe it couldn't fly.

The granules
on the feathers.

I don't think that could prevent it from flying,
but the feeling of the weight would stupefy it somehow. ("[SALT]," pp 35-6)

The kind of almost journal-entry fragmentation to the poems that make up this collection, this book, are extremely appealing to my own sensibilities of working the book as the individual unit of composition and what exactly that means. Much like the work of Mouré or Toronto writer Margaret Christakos, Greenstreet wraps her poems in and around each other, pulling reference both from her own pieces as well as other sources, and turning the pieces further apart as she weaves them into magnificent, living creatures.

Fragment. No suggestions.

Did she say who sought refuge
in unhappy love

Day by day, we're moving into night

Slight accent, and the falling
"Leave a window open"

"Which of these is life? the true life?"

It's meant to be sad and bright, lit up
like the boat of the dead

I thought 2 hands would be 2 people ("Book of Love," p 66)

A while ago, she wrote on her blog (where she has also been interviewing a great number of newly-booked poets about their work) that her last name, Greenstreet, is a constructed one, that she and her partner created; one that he took legally, and she married, making it theirs. Since all writing can be considered a form of self-creation, I think it would be very interesting to see her write further on this, this episode of self-creation through self-naming. So few of us make such an interesting choice, for whatever reason. Does this become a weight lifted or a weight created?

[Kate Greenstreet reads with Ottawa poet Rhonda Douglas at the Factory Reading Series, Thursday May 10 at 7pm (reading at 7:30) at the Ottawa Art Gallery; Douglas, director of the TREE Reading Series, will be launching her first poetry chapbook, published by above/ground press]

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